It’s hard to get noticed on the men’s tour these days, unless your name is Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray or Roger Federer. The ‘Fantastic Four’ have dominated the circuit for the past decade and are very stingy when it comes to sharing silverware. However, the following guys broke out to make a lasting impact on the tour this year, either through a phenomenal one-off performance, a drastic jump in the ranks or an overall consistent season. Either way, they were able to announce their arrival on tour and raised plenty of eyebrows in the process.
(Photo by AP)
Portuguese tennis has a new star in the making. 24-year old Joao Sousa started the year ranked a lowly 101 and climbed up to a career high ranking of 47. It was a season of many firsts for Sousa, who became the first Portuguese player ever to win an ATP World Tour singles title, when he won the Malaysian Open in September, and cracked the top 50. Along the way, he took out world number four David Ferrer, Austrian Jurger Melzer and fifth seed Julian Benneteau. “It’s just a dream come true. It’s just amazing winning. Winning an ATP World Tour title is one of my dreams. It’s good for me and good for my country. People can start to know Portuguese tennis and I think that’s great,” an ecstatic Sousa said. He also made it to the third round of the U.S Open, his best performance at a Grand Slam to date, and the semifinal of St. Petersburg, a 250 level tour event.
(Photo by Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press)
It’s an exciting time for Canadian tennis fans. Milos Raonic created history when he became the first Canadian to crack the top 10 this season. He is followed very closely in second place by the lanky Vasek Pospisil. Having spent most of his time on the challenger circuit prior to 2013, Pospisil began his year ranked outside the top 100. He had to skip the Australian Open in January and the first couple of months of the season due to mononucleosis. After recovery, he helped Canada topple Italy in Davis Cup play in April. Success came fast and furious for the young Canadian when, as a wildcard, he reached the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. He had some notable scalps that week, beating John Isner, Radek Stepanek, Tomas Berdych and Nikolay Davydenko in impressive fashion. He backed that up with another semifinal showing in Basel and a career high ranking of 32.
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Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov might be making the news for his off-court relationship with glamour girl Maria Sharapova, but the 22 year-old Haskovo native would rather let his racket do the talking. And talk it did this year. Dimitrov kicked off the year with a runner-up finish in Brisbane, going down to Murray in the final. He continued his impressive run of form with semifinal appearances at Rotterdam and Bastad and a quarterfinal in Monte Carlo. A former junior Wimbledon and U.S Open champion, Dimitrov has lived up to his potential from the junior ranks. He saw a steady rise in his ranking this year and finally broke through with his first ATP World Tour title in Stockholm. The Bulgarian has a big serve and an all court game and is not afraid to venture to the net. His single handed backhand is one of the better looking shots on tour. He finished the year at a career high ranking of 22 and will be a force to reckon with in the coming years.
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Sergiy Stakhovksy does not fit the description of a break-out star. He’s 27 years old and has been on the tour for 10 years. Yet his miraculous upset of seven time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on his beloved Centre Court this past summer got everybody talking. It was like he took a page out of the 70’s playbook with his old school serve and volley and chip and charge. The Ukrainian was bundled out in the next round and did not have a whole lot to celebrate about the rest of the season but his one-off performance on the grass courts of the All England Club that Wednesday evening certainly earned him a name.
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Ever since the retirement of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and, more recently, Andy Roddick, American men have left a huge void to be filled. Jack Sock is hoping to be just that guy who will fill it. Nicknamed “J. Sizzle”, this 21 year old Nebraskan has already tasted Grand Slam success when, in his first year on tour, he won the mixed doubles title at the 2011 U.S Open with partner Melanie Oudin. Sock, the 2010 junior U.S Open champion, clearly enjoys playing at home, as his best results this year came on American soil. A quarterfinal in Memphis and a third round at the U.S Open jolted his ranking to a career high 78 from 152 at the start of the year. With an aggressive game and a mature head on his shoulders, watch out for this youngster to be making some waves in the near future.